Monday, July 02, 2007

Fighting Fire

Most of us received Aishah's email about the black lesbians in Newark who are serving jailtime for defending themselves from a homophobic attacker. Today in the library in the archives of a small feminist publication called Feminary (that used to be based right here in Durham and operate through collective potluck meetings...) I found a few more examples of how the law criminalizes black women and women in prison for standing up for themselves. These are all direct quotes:

January 4th 1976

“On June 17, 1975, two Black women, Cheryl S. Todd and Dessie X. Woods, were arrested and charged with murder and armed robbery in Wheeler County, Georgia. The women were defending themselves from a sexual assault by a white man who was posing as a police officer;...This case involves a woman’s righto to defend herself against sexual assault, and has obvious racial implications. A defense committee has been formed....”
March 28th 1976
“On December 27th of last year (1975), a Black woman officer of the Flint, Michigan police force found herself temporarily assigned to patrol car duty with Walter Kalberer, who so opposed the assignment of women to street patrol that he requested in writing never to work with one. Madeline Fletcher was a rookie hired under the city’s affirmative-action program for increasing minority representation on the police force. Fletcher was already in the driver’s seat when Kalberer ordered her to mve over saying he would drive. After obscenities and racial insults, Kalberer said he grapped her by the coat collar and she “fell” on her back and started kicking him. When she allegedly fought back with her night stick, he attacked her with his, claiming to have said, “If you’re going to fight like a man, I’m going to have to treat you like a man” and knocked her night stick out of her hand. Fletcher is described as having run a few steps, drawn her pistol and shot at him, apparently hitting him in the left thigh. According to witnesses, Kalberer returned the fire. Alleging the she threatened to kill them, 3 nearby white male officers fired at her. During the exchange of some 14 shots, one bullet hit her in the chest. largely recovered, she has been charged with “assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder” and is suspended without pay. While he, the instigator, was charged with nothing and is on sick leave while recovering from his thigh wound.
Contributions are requested for the Madeline Fletcher Legal Defense Fund.”
May 23 1976
“The Raleigh Feminists Organized for Action (RFOA), a group that focuses particularly on black women and issues of civil rights enforcement, is currently involved with the Phyllis Ethridge vs. Robert L. Dunnigan case. Dunnigan was acquitted of assault charges brought against him by Ethridge for “striking her with his hands on the buttocks,”. Judge George Barnett dismissed the charges on the grounds that no bodily harm was intended although, in another case, a N.C. court has ruled that “...every batterin touchgin includes an assault, but ever assault does not include a battery...” the RFOA believes, therefore that Barnett’s ruling is contradictory to N.C. law. RFOA is calling on other local organizations and individuals to join in an effort to request a Judicial Standards Review of the judge in this case, and also to support Ethridge’s further appeal...

July 4 1976
"The first mass confrontation at the North Carolina Correction Center for Women between prisoners and guards occurred last summer (1975). Among the issues that the women were peacefully protesting were bad working conditions in the laundry and poor medical care. As you know, the peaceful demonstration ended in ciolence when the prison administration responded to the demands with force. Not only are many of the same conditions that were protested still existing, but many of the inmates who participated are still suffering reprisals. Several of the women who were involved have been writing since the protest, and now their articles, drawings and poems are being organized into a book.
Nine people from two groups Triangle Area Feminists and the North Carolina Hard Times Prison Project---are colecting and printing the book. One thousand dollars is necessary for its publication. This money will cover materials. Labor is being donated....
Break de Chains of Legalized U$ Slavery will be available for $2.00 in the late summer at local bookstores.

What I learn from these examples is that it is possible to fight fire with fire (and I support black women who defend themselves through the law and with physical self-defense), but it is also possible to fight fire with water. To read a zine of responses to violence that reject the law itself read the zine OutLaw Visions: Reclaiming Power, Truth and Justice for Ourselves.
Participants in the workshop that Serena and I led on behalf of UBUNTU at the Allied Media Conference Last Week in Detroit created it in one hour!

You can download your own copy here....

the nympho of info

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Madeline's story is even deeper. Her older sister, my mother Evelyn Harris was also shot by the Flint Police Department. My mom was the first police woman to ride a motorcycle and one of the first women on the force. Because of the sexism and racism, she was forced out. She was working at a cleaners and getting ready to leave for the day. She was ambushed, shot and left for dead. She pleaded with her little sister Madeline to not try to follow in her footsteps. My aunt faced the same isms, and filed a grievance. During her trial, the courthouse was bombed and our family threatened. And the other part of her history that is unknown is that she never recovered, physically or mentally. Eventhough she was acquitted, they literally drove her crazy. She was hospitilized during her trial for "paranoia" (YAH Think!!!) and later diagnosed with severe paranoid schizophrenia. She lives in a group home today and we are fighting to make the city increase and continue the disability and medical care she won.